If you're struggling with addiction recovery, the most basic way you can supplement your sobriety and avoid triggers is through a healthy dose of physical fitness. It's an age-old tip that cannot be stressed enough.
Science has shown that exercise during addiction recovery can help in many ways. Aerobic exercise has an inverse relationship to drug abuse, studies have shown. That means that the more you exercise, the less likely you are to use drugs or alcohol, and vice versa. Other studies have shown that exercise while in treatment for drug addiction reduces drug and alcohol cravings and prevents relapse.
One of the reasons is that exercise causes the body to release dopamine, a natural anti-depressant substance that creates pleasure in the brain. You've likely heard of the "runner's high," which is not not like getting high on drugs—it is a very good feeling that you get after strenuous exercise. It helps you feel better as well as eases pain in the body. It's caused by the release of endorphins, which help calm the brain and ease stress and anxiety, as well as ward off the effects of aging. These are all good reasons to exercise, but they are also reasons the body benefits from exercise during drug treatment.
If you haven't exercised in a long time and want to begin, you should talk to your doctor. She can help you decide what kind of exercise will be best for you to start with, as well as make sure your body is healthy enough for physical activity. Once you get your doctor’s OK, just get started.
You don't have to run a marathon to start with—just walking around the block is a good beginning. If that seems like too much, walk to the end of the block and come back. It might not be much, but you'll find it gets easier the more you do it. As you start taking daily walks, start adding to the length of each walk so that you begin to build up more endurance. Eventually, you'll be a walking machine. You might decide to kick up your cardio a notch and add running intervals. But if you don't, that’s OK. Not everybody is a runner.
If you want to try something more specialized, there are many options to try. You can join a gym and take an exercise class, learn to lift weights, take a yoga class, work with a physical trainer, join a sports team, walk around inside a mall, take a dance class, follow along with a fitness video, do an exercise challenge, download a fitness app and more. The possibilities are nearly endless.
Another way to stick with an exercise plan is to get a fitness buddy. Having someone to workout with regularly will keep you going even on days that you really don't want to. Having a buddy will also give you someone to talk with. If that person is in addiction recovery, he or she will be understanding of your unique situation.
Whatever you do, cut yourself some slack. You’re not going to jump right into a fitness program and win championships. But you can create goals for yourself. You can set goals to lose weight, lift a certain number of pounds, finish a 5K or more. The goal of exercising three times a week is a basic one for which anyone can strive.
Starting an exercise routine can be a great way to help ensure your continued success in recovery, and it will have amazing physical benefits, too. As an addict, you’ve likely done a lot of damage to your body and brain, but with exercise you have the chance to finally do something healthy for yourself.